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Macron, Ardern in new push vs. online extremism

PARIS—French President Emmanuel Macron and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sought Friday to advance their two-year-old campaign to curb online extremism, after it was boosted by the United States finally joining the initiative. 

Their talks marked two years since the leaders launched the Christchurch Call, an initiative named after the New Zealand city where a far-right gunman massacred 51 people at two mosques on March 15, 2019 while broadcasting his rampage live on Facebook.

The campaign, which aims to bring together governments and top tech platforms, has been boosted by the decision of the administration of new US President Joe Biden to join the initiative after his predecessor Donald Trump turned his back on the drive.

“We all have a role to play in continuing to implement the engagements of the Christchurch Call. This evening, we reaffirmed our willingness to continue down this road, together,” Macron wrote on Twitter after the talks.

He said that 55 states, including all EU member states, two international organisations and ten companies are now part of the initiative.

Participants in the Christchurch Call are asked to commit to pledges to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content on social media and other online platforms.

Macron welcomed the move by the United States -- as well as six other nations -- to join the initiative. However some key nations, including China and Russia, have still not signed up.

“There is no place for terrorist and violent extremist content anywhere, whether it be online or offline,” said Macron.

He recalled attacks carried out by extremists that took place over the last year, notably the murder in France in October of teacher Samuel Paty who was beheaded after he showed pupils cartoons of the prophet Mohammed.

Paty had been subjected to an online campaign against him ahead of his murder by a young Islamist radical from Chechnya.

“The Internet was abused by terrorists as a weapon to propagate hateful ideologies,” said Macron in his opening remarks, speaking in English 

“I am thinking of the online calls to the violence that led to the killing of Samuel Paty... This cannot be forgotten,” said Macron.

The drive was launched to counter a growing use of social media by extremists, after the Christchurch attacker broadcast live footage on Facebook from a head-mounted camera.

The New Zealand leader earned huge international prominence and respect after the attacks in her country by reaching out to Muslim communities and vowing a widescale crackdown on extremist content.

“Among the priorities I would like to see progressed is a strengthened collective ability to manage crises related to terrorist and violent extremist content online,” Ardern said in a statement released by the French presidency ahead of the talks.

Topics: France , French President Emmanuel Macron , New Zealand , Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern , online extremism
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